I had two favorite aspects of this course. The first was being able to compare the same topics that I learned last term in Comparative Animal Physiology to how they are affected by exercise. Since the same general physiology topics were covered in both classes, I had a general understanding of the material, but it was interesting to see how the topics changed when exercise was thrown into the mix instead of comparing the similarities and differences of the topics in various animals. The exercise component was without a doubt more interesting.
The second would be how different forms of training impact the body differently. For example, how the body adapts to strength training much faster than endurance training, and how the muscle fibers can switch over to accommodate for the new activity. How muscles adapt to exercise was fascinating – how they use the spindle fibers to detect mechanical stretch, detect the calcium levels which vary with muscle activation, how free radicals affect recovery, and the AMP/ATP ratio. Going off of the idea of how muscles adapt to training, how quickly they react to detraining was not only interesting, but also a little worrisome. The fact that you could spend months or years running trying to get your endurance up, and then you take two weeks off, maybe because of an injury or because you were on vacation, and your VO2max would decrease by 8%.. and then 20% after 84 days. It’s weird to think about that in a short period of time, there could be significant physiological changes going on in your body (i.e. rapid loss of plasma volume leading to the decrease in stroke volume, switching of the fibers back to type IIx, decrease in mitochondria). That just doesn’t seem right.
Overall, my favorite part of the course was learning about how all the systems change and adapt to work together to maintain homeostasis when you decide to go for a run and how those changes can improve your overall health in the long run.